Fresno Pastor Found "Not Guilty"

December 22, 2008 2:04:18 PM PST
Charles Dickerson spent 16 months fighting charges that turned him from community leader to outcast in many eyes.The court clerk read the "not guilty" verdicts, one by one, over the course of about 5 minutes.

Dickerson says he didn't feel relief until he heard the last "not guilty."

And when it was done, the courthouse turned into a something resembling a religious revival.

Several members of Charles Dickerson's congregation embraced him after a jury found him not guilty on all counts of molesting two teenage girls.

The accusers later recanted their stories, so the prosecution was left to argue their original stories were true.

They leaned on the testimony of a 16 year old boy who also claimed abuse by Dickerson. But the teen made a report to police and Dickerson never faced charges in that case.

"The ridiculousness of his story just didn't make sense from day one," said Glenn Lostracco, defense attorney.

Members of Dickerson's Pearly Grove Baptist Church celebrated the verdict inside and outside the courthouse.

And back at the southwest Fresno church, Dickerson returned to a hero's welcome. He says the membership kept him focused and confident.

"I certainly value their love and unwavering support. There was not a point where members and leaders wavered in their belief in my integrity," said Charles Dickerson.

"Well, it means we're finally free. We're free," said Bryttani McGhee, Pearly Grove member.

Before the accusations surfaced, Dickerson was a major player in community events. He believes he can return to that mission now, stronger than he was before.

"Any stain this may have caused, I don't think will circumvent our effectiveness."

Dickerson will preach at Pearly Grove on Sunday for the first time since the verdict.

Members of his congregation are expecting a message of triumph, but then they expect everything to return to normal.


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